An older millennial’s view on social media
Written by an actual 80s kid
You've probably already read the blog, ‘A teenager’s view on social media’ but I read it for the first time just over a week ago and since then, I've been thinking about my own experiences with social media. The author, Andrew Watts (a real teen) and I are both millennials but were born a decade apart. We have contrasting opinions on different social media networks and it’s no surprise considering our vastly different situations (he’s American, I'm British, he’s still at college, I work full time, he’s male, I'm female). However, I do think it is interesting insight and I wanted to share my own experiences from the other end of the millennial spectrum. Wanting to put my own use of social media into perspective with the bigger picture, I also searched for some demographic statistics to see how I compare to others my own age.
I think some background might be needed to give you context so what follows is a quick history of my social media use. Andrew joined Facebook when he was in high school but when I was at high school, I was using dial-up internet to look at pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio and talk to my friends on MSN Messenger. Facebook was still many years away from being created. When I took a gap year between school and university, I updated my friends back home by sending them emails and links to a blog that no longer exists.
My first exposure to social media didn't happen until I was at University and I joined MySpace and Bebo. I subjected my friends to auto-playing videos of the Baywatch theme tune and a clip from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
When Facebook emerged, I resisted joining for the longest time, thinking there was no way the clean blue and white appearance could compete with the technicolour, customizable Bebo. Ha! How wrong I was. Eventually I realised everyone was on Facebook and signed up using my university account because back then, you needed a university email to join. The main talking point in those early days was the relationship status feature. Although I think many of us hoped it would increase our chances of finding a date or getting laid, it didn't happen. At least not for me.
Today, MySpace and Bebo is a distant memory for me and I never make judgements about which social network will rise to stratospheric popularity or sink without trace. Instead I check each one out, see if it works for me, and go from there. What I have noticed is that my use of social media is strongly influenced by those around me. For example, I lived abroad for a short while and Google+ was one of the first social networks to offer free group video chats. I really wanted to set up a hangout with my friends but they all refused to open a Google+ account. Instead, they preferred to gather at a friend’s house and Skype me from there. Setting up a new account seemed like more bother than physically gathering in one location.
Now I’ve taken you for a walk along memory lane and given you the background to my own social media experiences, I’ll do what Andrew did and highlight the networks I use the most and throw in some information about each network’s users for comparison.
I’ll start with the network I've had the longest relationship with. It’s been 10 years since I joined Facebook and it’s become a scrapbook of happy times and big announcements. At uni it was a great place to share photos of nights out and find out the relationship status of hot people in your class. I remember trying to present a cool and witty personality but sadly, it was a delusional attempt that made me look like an even bigger loser than I already was. A few years ago, my news feed became a hot bed of wedding and baby photos. Every day there was another 10 or 20 photos of babies that all looked the same to me. It got too much and I hid a lot of people from my timeline. It seemed unkind to unfriend them just because they were happy but at that point in my life, marriage and babies were the last thing on my mind. The only thing making my belly bulge was cheese fondue.
Today, my friends and I use Facebook to arrange parties and trips to visit one another as we slowly spread out across Europe to be closer to family and take up new job opportunities. Facebook is dead to Andrew and his friends but not for us. Photos of nights out are shared within groups for added privacy. Some of my friends have left Facebook entirely, sick of the ads and click-bait that appear in the news feed. But for me, part of my soul is embedded in those pages and when I'm old and grey, I’ll be able to look back and laugh at the awful clothes I used to wear.
With 1.04 billion daily active users, Facebook is the world’s biggest social network. With those kinds of numbers, it won’t be leaving our mobiles any time soon. Even if younger millennials are losing interest, the most common age of Facebook users is 25–34 years old and it will be interesting to see if this group continues to claim the biggest share of users as they age.
I LOVE Instagram. It’s the best. For a few minutes each day I can look at beautiful pictures of mountains and beaches and dream about packing up a bag and getting on a plane. I’d guess that most, but not all of my friends are on Instagram and we all use it for different things. Some use it for cooking inspiration, others post pictures of their days out, and others look like they have Instagirl ambitions #blessed. As Andrew said in his blog, only the best photos go on Instagram and there’s no distracting URL’s with ridiculous headlines like, ‘You’ll never believe why this man got his head stuck in a bin.’ Basically it’s a happy place where everyone looks their best and it’s easy to filter out the duds.
Looking at the bigger picture, Instagram is more popular than Twitter across all age ranges, with more than 400 million active monthly users compared 320 million. Of those users, 49 per cent of Instagram users identified as millennials, in comparison to 41 per cent of Twitter users, confirming that millennials do indeed prefer Instagram.
I've heard a lot of people say they are scared of Twitter and would like to know how to use it better. I think the reason they are scared is because it’s so public and they worry about saying something their employer will disapprove of. This is a shame because Twitter is a great place to find out breaking news, abstracts of new scientific research, and connect with people you wouldn't normally get to interact with. Yes, there are idiots who say inappropriate things and get fired, but surely most people have better sense than that? My biggest concern is the widespread abuse women receive for simply speaking their minds. I find it horrifying that anyone would threaten to rape or kill someone just because they disagree with something they have said.
My own experience on Twitter has been stop-start over many years and thankfully abuse free. Regular tweeting got much easier once I got an iPhone and I've found apps like TweetDeck and HootSuite have made it easier to filter out relevant content. For a while my tweets focused on one particular topic but then I realised that those tweets didn't really express my personality and that’s kind of the point of social media. I use it show my support for campaigns that matter to me and research shows that it’s an important outlet for marginalised groups. That’s one group that Andrew’s blog didn’t consider and there is a great response to Andrew’s blog from Danah Boyd (an old fogey) on that topic that you should check out.
Until I read Andrew’s blog I had never used Snapchat. Sure I had heard that it was super popular but I lived in fear of dick pics. (Do men live in fear of tit pics?) The only times I’d ever been asked, “Are you on Snapchat” is in sweaty bars by spotty young men who look barely old enough to be there. Once, I even uttered the words, “I'm too old for Snapchat.” But I was wrong! Demographic analysis of Snapchat’s global users in 2015 revealed that 32 per cent of them are aged 25–34. As you’d expect, Snapchat is most popular among 18–24 year olds, accounting for 52 per cent of all users. That means 84 per cent of Snapchat’s users are millennials. I tried to discover if Snapchat is more popular in the US than the UK and although I found a statistic on Snapchat’s website that says 60 per cent of 13–34 year old smart phone users are on Snapchat, I couldn't find an equivalent statistic for the UK. I’ll add an update if that information ever becomes available.
Now that I've finally downloaded Snapchat, I've discovered that it is glorious! I found it wasn't as intuitive to use as I expected but there are legions of fans out there who have posted guides on how to use it. In particular I enjoy using the geofilters and seeing the art people are creating. Comedy seems to be a key theme too, leading to unexpected bursts of laughter. I don’t have many friends on Snapchat but there are companies out there making really fun and engaging stories. From a marketing perspective, I think Snapchat is shaping up to be a key channel for engaging with 18–34 year olds. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one.
WhatsApp didn’t make it to Andrew’s list of most-used social media channels but it’s the one that I probably use the most. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- I can set up group chats that include people who live abroad or don’t have Facebook
- I can exchange messages with friends who live abroad without incurring charges
- I can share photos more quickly than I can on Facebook
For me, it’s way easier to send messages on WhatsApp than Facebook Messenger and I use it more than texting. In February, WhatsApp announced that one billion people are now using the service, which is more than the 800 million users on Facebook messenger. In a reflection of these massive user numbers, the number of text messages sent each year continues to decline.
To wrap up, there were a couple of other networks Andrew mentioned that I only have a few words to say about.
Medium — We’re both on Medium so I don’t need to tell you that it is awesome, do I?
Tumblr — source of many hilarious threads and inspiration to many memes but I've never personally got into it.
Yik Yak — I don’t know anyone that uses this and as a consequence, I don’t either. There has been speculation over the past few days that Yik Yak’s star is fading. Its popularity on the Apple App Store chart is falling and Yik Yak has confirmed that CTO Tom Chernetsky is leaving his role but will remain as an advisor.
LinkedIn — It’s important for networking, job hunting, and B2B marketing knowledge. I find it a bit dull but it has its uses.
Pinterest — Great for recipes and planning holidays. Like Andrew, I've also found this network to be more popular with my female friends and demographic statistics confirm this with 85 per cent of users identified as female.
Kik — Say what? No one I know uses this. I couldn't find statistics for how many UK users there are but according to the Kik website 275 million people in 230 countries have signed up. This pales in comparison to Snapchat’s 100 million daily active users.